Skip to comments.Two Heftiest Stars Found in Milky Way
Posted on 06/08/2007 12:35:40 PM PDT by LibWhacker
June 7, 2007 The two heaviest stars ever have been discovered in the southern Milky Way galaxy. The double super heavyweights are actually in orbit around each other, and both break the record 83 times the suns mass for the most massive stars found to date.
The heavier of the two weighs in at a whopping 114 "solar masses," while its little brother is 84 solar masses. The discovery was presented June 7 at the meeting of the Canadian Astronomical Society at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario.
The two big bruiser stars, which form a binary system called A1, are not only large, they are quite young. This makes sense since it is the largest and brightest of stars that live the briefest, according to stellar theory.
"Their age is about a million years," said astronomer Anthony Moffat of the University of Montreal. They will probably not last beyond two or three million years, he said. Smaller stars like our sun, on the other hand, can burn for many billions of years.
Its partly this short lifespan that makes these large stars so hard to find, said Robert Lamontagne, a University of Montreal astronomer who was not involved in the discovery.
To hunt down the biggest stars, astronomers need to look closely to the sites where stars are born stellar clusters. The newfound massive double star system was found in a very dense, young star cluster called NGC 3603 using data from both the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in South America. NGC 3603 is located about 20,000 light-years from Earth.
"Our sun was probably born in such a cluster," said Lamontagne, "but its brothers and sisters are spread out over the galaxy now." If there were any giants in our suns birth cluster, they died explosively long ago, he said.
What also made the new discovery possible was the fact that there were two stars involved, said Moffat. The interplay between the two provides plenty of data with which to calculate the masses of the stars, he explained. A lone giant would be much harder to weigh.
Another downside of the shorter lifespan of giant stars, from an astronomers point of view, is that they are completely outnumbered by their smaller, far older siblings.
"Typical stars are the mass of the sun or even smaller," said Lamontagne.
Large stars, though bright, make up perhaps five or ten percent of the stellar population. But that doesnt mean the big stars are unimportant, he said. On the contrary, the giants are the factories that make the heaviest elements. Modest stars like our sun can only cook up elements as big as carbon merely the sixth element out of more than two hundred and sixty.
Astronomers have theorized for years that stars should be able to reach masses of up to 150 times the sun. Beyond that size, the nuclear reactions are so powerful inside a star, they immediately overcome gravity and a star cant hold together.
Hefty? Noooo! They’re just big boned!
Michael and Rosie?........
Rosie O’Donnell and Michael Moore?
Damn, you got to be fast here on FR.
ooooh, beaten by 25 seconds.
There's a North/South in our Galaxy? The Universe too?
Last I checked there were 117 discovered/synthesized elements. Where the heck did "more than 260" come from?
Hmmm... I wonder if there is any hope of ever being able to identify them?... Say, a thousand years from now when we have a complete census of all the stars in the Milky Way?
Yup, stay out of SE Milky Way. Bad neighborhood. ;-)
LOLOL!!! took the words right outta my mouth!
Good catch. I don’t know... Are they including the anti-elements?
That certainly seems counter-intuitive. More “fuel” equals shorter life???? Hmmmmm.
“..and both break the record 83 times the suns mass for the most massive stars found to date.”
....Yep,definitely Rosie and Michael.
You sure do have to be fast! But anyway the sentiment got expressed, so all is not lost!
More fuel = burns much, much, much faster.
Although it is fission rather than fusion you can compare it to having some U-235. A little bit will just toss out some radiation and last for millions of years. Add more and it gets more radioactive as spontanious splitting of the atoms cause others to split which will use up the uranium faster. Add some more and it only lasts for a fraction of a second before it blows up.
More fuel = more mass = bigger reaction = higher outward pressure countering gravitational force keeping the whole thing in a nice, neat ball and the furnace going. When that pressure overcomes the gravity, the outer shell is blown away, or the whole magillah starts expanding until equilibrium is reached again. Blast furnace needs more fuel than a campfire to keep going for the same amount of time.
Rosie and late Momma Cass and a large sandwich orbiting around both.
Raymond Burr & William Conrad?
Teddy Kennedy’s moobs? (man boobs)
Yep, though they have a lot more hydrogen fuel to burn, they go through all of it much faster than a smaller star goes through its supply. Think top fuel dragster. Fifteen gallons of gas is enough for a small sedan to go 300 miles. But a top fuel dragster almost burns that much in a quarter mile.
Fission and fusion are two different beasts. Fission requires the abundance, most of the time, of nice tranquil thermal neutrons and enough fissile material to reach criticality. But fusion as I understand it inside of a star, relies on gravitational pressures and the accompanying temps to bring two hydrogen atoms to such close proximity, overcoming the repulsive forces, and then bammo, a light helium atom a gamma ray and a little over 5 MeV of energy. The only thing that I can think of is that a bigger star has a bigger region inside with sufficient gravitational force to overcome the repulsive forces.
Tell that to the elephant and the mouse. One lives for 70 years the other at most a couple of years.
Wait’ll the “little” one gets sucked into the big one. That’ll be one heckuva BANG!
The "North" side of a planet, star, or galaxy is the side from which it appears to be spinning widdershins (counterclockwise). Haven't heard anything about North or South poles for the Universe.
Well, there's this, but that still only gets us up to 218.
It does seem "counter-intuitive", but the rate, at which the fuel "burns", goes up exponentially with increased stellar mass.
Sounds like they need to go on Atkins!
Close up of NGC 3603.
There are a number of factors to take into account.
First, the more fuel in a star, the more massive it is. Both the temperature and size of a star are proportional to the mass. As it turns out, the brightness of a star (or rate of energy escape) is proportional to both the temperature (to the fourth power) and the diameter (squared), for a double whammy.
Second, the hotter stars undergo a different type of fusion (carbon-nitrogen-oxygen cycle) than the sun, and that type burns a little faster at higher temperatures.
There are also other factors like mean molecular weights and convective mixing that change the amount of fuel in a star that may be burned, again favoring a longer life for smaller stars.